When we were asked about the dangers we needed to pay attention to in the forest, Sierra asked us what the most dangerous creature in the forest is. Someone answered 'snakes', while others answered 'monkeys'. My answer was the mosquito. To our surprise, all of us were wrong; Sierra told us that the most dangerous creature who can cause damage to the forest is ourselves - humans.
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Experiential learning programmes showed up recently in the news! In a recent article from Channel News Asia, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore's Minister of Education, talked about the importance of bridging theory with practice in contemporary education. "...there [is] a need for applied learning at all levels of education. This will help students unlock the potential in their abilities and use them to solve real-life problems."
We think that's a very important distinction to make--when we put together our programmes, something that we find is always important to consider is whether the programmes allow our participants to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world challenges. For example, when we were going through the process of partnering with the Biosphere Foundation in Bali, this was a crucial balance to keep in mind. The overall goal was to teach students hands-on environmental stewardship. To do this, we had to make sure that there were credible ecologists and experts that could mentor our participants and provide that extra layer of practical knowledge--the sort of knowledge you can only get through doing it yourself--that would provide the sort of enriching, dynamic learning experience we wanted for our participants.
I believe I speak for many teachers when I say that while we feel heartened to see an 'A' on the Ecology test paper of a student, we feel even more proud when we witness that he/she is able to use his/her knowledge to, for example, help a community start a small organic farm going with the appropriate mix of nitrogen-fixing crops, or propose suitable solutions to waste management issues that actually get implemented. After all, aren't we all preparing students for a world beyond academics?